A DEBUT goal from Tyler Blackwood was the difference as Newport County AFC finally ended their winless start to the league season with a battling 1-0 victory away to Carlisle.

It had been eight League Two games without a win to start the campaign but the Exiles produced a heroic performance on their long journey north.

And they headed back with all three points after Blackwood, only signed on loan from QPR on Thursday, found the net with a second-half header.

The trip to Brunton Park had appeared a stiff task for County, with the Cumbrians undefeated in ten home outings, and Terry Butcher’s men found themselves under a wave of early pressure.

Carlisle’s Alex Gilliead and Angelo Balanta both managed to wriggle free of the Newport backline but were unable to test keeper Joe Day with their efforts.

But County sniffed an opportunity when their opponents’ top scorer Jabo Ibehre was forced off early in proceedings, and had their best early effort when skipper Mark Byrne fired a vicious 25-yard strike agonisingly past the far post.

The injury to Ibehre proved to be a turning point, as Newport grew into the contest.

Debutant Janoi Donacien was particularly impressive, dealing with the pace of Carlisle replacement Derek Asamoah on a number of occasions to frustrate the Football League’s leading scorers.

Opportunities were still few and far between for Newport, with Lewell John-Lewis finally getting in behind the Carlisle defence, but he tamely fired into Mark Gillespie’s gloves.

But the half ended on a concerning note for Newport, as Danny Holmes was forced off after a clash of heads left him noticeably dazed.

His replacement Scott Boden had just enough time to curl an effort wide to leave the game goalless at the interval.

And it appeared the moment had finally come for the Exiles after the break, when substitute Boden fed John-Lewis in behind the Carlisle defence, but he could only fire his shot straight at Gillespie with the goal at his mercy.

But their efforts were to bear fruit, when Seth Nana Twumasi did superbly to dig out a low cross on the right flank, and Blackwood bulleted a header past Gillespie in the Carlisle goal.

Carlisle huffed and puffed but rarely looked like netting an equaliser, with Day holding a Michael Raynes header from a corner.

Home substitute Kevin Osei should have when he slid Alex McQueen’s shot wide, and County had to withstand an injury-time barrage on their goal which included a number of heroic tackles and blocks – but this was Newport’s day.